Quick visit to Minneapolis/St. Paul: Maria's Cafe, Sever's Corn Maze, Peninsula, May Day Cafe, Kingfield Farmer's Market, Bangkok Thai Deli
I just got back from a weekend in Minnesota (my very first visit), and I'm happy to report that I had some excellent food. Here's what I ate:
Saturday Brunch: Maria's Cafe in Minneapolis. My friends who brought me here recommended the corn pancakes, and this is what I had. Really good, moist, unlike any pancakes I'd ever had before - what this dish reminded me of was the topping to Chilean pastel de choclo - intense corn flavor and a nice sweetness. One of my friends had eggs, which looked fine but somewhat uninspired. I'd stick to the corn pancakes here if I returned.
Saturday Afternoon: Sever's Corn Maze - We went to check out the Sever's corn maze in Shakopee, which was quite the spectacle. Lots of fun, and I had some tasty snacks too - a corn dog which was very good, some fried cheese curds (my midwestern friends thought these were only OK, but I thought they were good, since I had never had them before. Squeaky and greasy). A decent bratwurst, some caramel apples and kettle corn were consumed as well...
Peninsula - Eat Street - Saturday Dinner - This place is big, and was good for our large party. The food ranged from good to mediocre, in my opinion, but service was friendly and overall I thought the restaurant was a good choice for us (we were a party of 9). Highlights included the roti canai, which I thought was the best dish on the table. The lamb and beef rendang were also pretty good, although a bit salty. I wasn't a big fan of the Malaysian style eggplant, which was deep fried (reminded me of 'salt and pepper squid' but with eggplant instead) or the popiah (which were presented nicely, but had a bland filling). A lot of the food tasted too salty to me, and sort of lacked spice.
Kingsfield Farmer's Market - Sunday breakfast - This was a nice small farmer's market, and my friend and I enjoyed the Hangover Hash from the food truck there. It had lots of potatoes and veggies, all fried up...we also helped ourselves to some homemade pickles (I loved their pickled carrots). A great start to the morning. Also bought some cider donuts which we ate later, also delicious.
May Day Cafe - We stopped here for croissants, which were very good (my friend told me this is by far the best baked good they make), and some coffee.
Bangkok Thai Deli - I went with two friends to B.T.D. in St. Paul last night for dinner - neither of them had been there before. We were all REALLY IMPRESSED. This was some of the best Thai food I've ever had. We shared Pra-Ram-Long-Song, which I wanted to get after reading jfood's report (see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/700049). I didn't realize the sauce would contain peanut, and if I had, it might not have been my first choice, since I'm not that crazy about Thai peanut sauces. That said, it was probably the best Thai peanut sauce I've ever had. Also, the shrimp were cooked perfectly, the broccoli smothered in the sauce was great. Really well put together and a nice presentation too. We also tried Naam Tok Nuea (Beef Salad). We were asked how spicy we wanted it, and we chose a 3 on a scale of 1-5. This was PLENTY of heat for me, I don't think I could have handled 4. Lots of lime, chili-heat was searing (but in a good way), lots of fresh mint and basil, beautiful presentation as well. My mouth is watering just thinking back. Finally, we ordered a special of Khao Soy, which was the best of the lot - the broth contained both rice noodles and crispy noodles, and a leg of chicken in a beautifully balanced curry broth. A plate of vegetables and pickles was served on the side, to be mixed in at the table. One of my Minneapolis friends commented that it was much better than the version of Khao Soy at Sen Yai Sen Lek. I thought this dish was one of the top 10 dishes I have eaten so far in 2010, and as my chowhound posts can attest, I have eaten A LOT in 2010. Prices were very reasonable (these three dishes plus rice and 1 coconut juice came out to $30 and was more than we could eat). All of the dishes were garnished with beautiful smoked Thai chilies, which I didn't dare try because the food was already spicy enough for me....but clearly this place is not afraid to provide spicy food if that's what you're after. If you live in Minneapolis/St. Paul and haven't been here yet, you really ought to give it a try. And for visitors from the East Coast (at least from Boston), this place is definitely worth a trip as well.
Anyway, it was a great time in Minnesota. Hopefully I'll be back someday. Thanks Chowhound for the tips!
May Day Cafe
3440 Bloomington Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55407
Sen Yai Sen Lek
2422 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418
Thanks for the reminder, I really need to try Bangkok Thai Deli! I'm surprised you had decent food at Peninsula. We ate there about 7 months ago and had one of the worst meals of our lives. The beef rendang was pretty much all gristle, completely inedible and tough. After chewing the little bits of actual meat out of it, my husband had more than half left on his plate. It was disgraceful.
i think peninsula's menu is really uneven. i've had *bad* dishes there. that said, if you order carefully, it's possible to get a great meal, and if you go with a large party, you're more apt to get lucky with something :)
their house-made tofu is sublime. there are several dishes which feature it, like the queen's tofu dish (which is not vegetarian) which i would rec.
I eat a Peninsula about once a month and usually have great experiences. I agree, their tofu is spectacular – really great and you can't go wrong with a hot pot or the golden spicy tofu. I also had the shrimp with belecan which was lovely and the asam laksa soup is always wonderful.